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Fight Spring Sniffles with Allergy-Busting Foods

( With the arrival of spring, many people start to dread the onslaught of outdoor allergies. For some, it’s just a few sniffles. But  some unlucky allergy sufferers have to face major bouts of allergy symptoms, including red, itchy eyes and skin, sneezing, and even trouble breathing. Allergies can have a major impact on your health and your ability to get out and enjoy the first days of long-awaited warmer weather.

Allergy pill manufacturers are running their ads in high rotation right now, and it’s true that allergy pills can be used to mask allergy symptoms. But rather than pop a pill to reduce symptoms once they appear (or, as some allergy sufferers do, take an allergy pill every single day for the first several weeks of spring), why not prepare your body to defend itself against allergies naturally using allergy-fighting foods- This strategy not only reduces the amount of medication you need to take to get through allergy season, it will actually make you feel better by preventing or reducing allergic reactions rather than simply masking the symptoms.

An added bonus- The same foods that fight allergies tend to boost the immune system to help keep you healthier in general.

Top Food Picks to Help Stop Allergies in their Tracks

Try incorporating some of these allergy-fighting ingredients into each meal to help build your body’s resistance to allergy symptoms.

  • Spices: Kicking up the flavor of your cooking with spices like ginger and turmeric can help fight inflammation. That’s great news for most allergy sufferers, because sniffles and sinus pain are caused by an allergic inflammation response in the sinus cavities
  • Fruit: The Vitamin C in citrus acts as an antihistamine (the main function of allergy pills) while the bromelain in pineapples helps fight inflammation. Plus, a British study showed that five apples a week can help improve lung function – giving the lungs a better chance to cope with wheeze-inducing allergy triggers.
  • Fish: The general health benefits of the omega-3s found in fish are well known. What you many not have heard is that they can also help prevent the body from releasing antibodies that trigger an allergic response.
  • Seeds: Chia seeds also provide loads of omega-3s! Another popular seeds – sunflower seeds – contain Vitamin E, which acts as an anti-inflammatory, and selenium, which helps the body produce antioxidants that boost the immune system and reduce inflammation.

Allergy-Trigger Foods to Avoid

Increasing intake of the above foods can help fight off allergies, but it’s also important to avoid foods that can trigger allergy symptoms.

  • Alcohol: Most alcoholic beverages can trigger the release of histamines, especially beer, wine, and cider.
  • Processed foods: One more reason to avoid highly processed foods – they can trigger inflammation that aggravates allergies, especially in the sinuses.  Common processed-food components like saturated and trans fats, nitrites, and excess sugar can all trigger inflammation.
  • Pickled foods: The fermentation process in pickling leads to the development of histamines.

The Bottom Line

Spring shouldn’t be a time of misery. By planning your diet to include allergy-fighting foods – and avoid allergy food triggers – you can prepare your body to face the outdoors and enjoy the first warm rays of the spring sun.

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Managing Anemia Through Diet

( There are many causes of anemia, but the condition itself basically means lacking healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body. We’re going to discuss a few anemia conditions that are diet related.

Treating Anemia through Diet

Iron Deficiency Anemia

Managing Anemia Through Diet?For many people, hearing the term “anemia” implies that the nutrient lacking is iron. This is not too far off the mark, because iron deficiency anemia is the most common type. It can be the result of not getting enough iron-rich foods, pregnancy, heavy menstrual flows, or growth spurts (in infants or teenagers). Some women with borderline iron serum levels can become anemic during pregnancy, as can those who have had multiple pregnancies and childbirths. Very premature babies may also be anemic. Iron-deficiency anemia may also be caused by celiac disease. ?According to gluten-free diet expert Shelly Case, damage to the intestinal villi in the area where iron and folate are absorbed frequently results in a deficiency of these nutrients. Very mild anemia may not manifest any symptoms, but once the anemia is moderate to severe, the most common symptoms of iron deficiency anemia are fatigue/weakness, irritability, difficulty concentrating or confusion, coldness or numbness in hands and feet, trouble breathing, headache, and a fast heartbeat.

If you have been diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia, the doctor may prescribe iron supplements in addition to a diet high in iron-rich foods. When it comes to food, iron from animal-based sources (heme?iron) is better absorbed than iron from plant-based sources (non-heme iron). However, overall absorption is affected by many factors, including other foods you eat alongside the iron-rich item. Look here for a complete list of top iron-rich foods and enhancing/inhibiting food pairs.

Vitamin B6 Deficiency

Managing Anemia Through DietAlthough not as common as iron deficiency anemia, Vitamin B6 deficiency can also lead to anemia. Vitamin B6 is needed for many enzymatic reactions within the body, including those in energy and protein metabolism, hemoglobin formation, and immunity.?A 2010 article in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition discussed pregnant women with anemia who did not respond to iron supplementation, whose condition improved when Vitamin B6 supplement was added.?

People at risk for Vitamin B6 deficiency usually have a pre-existing medical condition that affects nutrition absorption, such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, or kidney disease, or are on medications that affect absorption of this vitamin (such as anti-epileptic drugs). Alcohol dependence and obesity are also associated with low Vitamin B6 levels.?Deficiency in Vitamin B6 may signal deficiency in the other B-vitamins. Symptoms may not develop for a very long time, and can include confusion, depression, weakened immune function, swollen tongue, scaling on the lips and cracks ?on the corners of the mouth.

If you are eating a wide variety of whole, minimally processed foods, you should be getting sufficient Vitamin B6 from the diet. Vitamin B6-rich food sources include chickpeas, liver, tuna, salmon, chicken, and turkey. “Starchy” plant foods such as potatoes and bananas are also high in Vitamin B6, as well as whole grains and certain fortified breakfast cereals.?

Folate or Vitamin B12 Deficiency?

Managing Anemia Through DietAnemia can also be the result of a deficiency (in either one or both) of folate or Vitamin B12. Folate and Vitamin B12?have metabolic processes that are intertwined, so Vitamin B12 deficiency can be “masked” by high folate intake. Unfortunately, the neuropathology (and possible severe nerve damage) associated with the lack of B12 will continue if the Vitamin B12 deficiency is not corrected.

Vegans, in particular, must have an alternate source of Vitamin B12 because it is found only in animal foods such as fish and meats. Pregnant and breastfeeding women who are strict vegans should consider additional Vitamin B12 supplementation to ensure that there is enough Vitamin B12?transfer to the fetus and infant. Deficiency symptoms include fatigue, constipation, loss of appetite and/or weight, tingling or numbness in hands or feet, confusion, poor memory, dementia, and sore mouth/tongue. Medical conditions such as pernicious anemia (an autoimmune disease) and achlorhydia (lack of stomach acids) affect Vitamin B12?absorption and can also lead to deficiency.

High-Vitamin B12 foods include clams, liver, salmon, and tuna. Other good sources are milk (both cow’s milk and fortified non-dairy milks), yogurt, and fortified breakfast cereals. When it comes to fortified non-dairy beverages and breakfast cereals, check the label to find out what % Daily Value of the vitamin is in one serving; it could be 25%, 50%, or 100%.

?High-folate food sources include liver, fortified breakfast cereals, lentils and other legumes, spinach and other leafy greens, avocado, and asparagus. Many fruits and vegetables such as oranges, strawberries, and broccoli also contain folate.

The Bottom Line

Mild anemia usually goes undetected. ?If you suspect you are anemic, check with your doctor immediately.

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#GoUnDiet Party: Eat Well For The Swimsuit Season

( Spring is here! Are you ready for the swimsuit season- How do you get yourself in shape- Join us for a fun discussion and let’s share practical ways to eat real and well!

#GoUnDiet Party: Eat Well For The Swimsuit Season

#GoUnDiet Twitter Party

Party Topic: Eat Well For The Swimsuit Season
Party Hashtag: #GoUnDiet
When: Wed April 18, 2012 at 8 pm EST (5 pm PST)
Where: TweetGrid or TweetChat
Party Favor Draw: A T-Fal Viva Hotspot Frying Pan, a cute apron + a $75 cash card by Mushrooms Canada!


RSVP: Don’t forget to RSVP below with your Twitter handle to put your name in the draw! And we can all follow each other too :-)

NEW#GoUnDiet Party: Eat Well For The Swimsuit Season! We will pin recipes shared during the #GoUnDiet party on our pinboard on Pinterest! So come party with us and share your recipes!

If you’d like to more information about sponsoring our future Twitter parties, please contact @HealthCastleGlo on Twitter.

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Nutrition Faceoff: Craisins (Dried Cranberries) vs. Raisins

( This month we take a closer look at two popular portable snacks that are dried fruits. Are all dried fruits essentially the same- 

?Nutrition Faceoff: Ocean Spray Craisins vs. California Raisins

  Ocean Spray Craisins California Raisins
Serving Size: 1/4 cup 1/4 cup
Calories: 93 kcal 108 kcal
Fat: 0.4 g 0.2 g
Protein: 0 g 1.1 g
Total Carbohydrates: 25 g 28.7 g
Fiber: 1.7 g 1.3 g
Potassium: 12 mg 272 mg

Dietitian’s Take: Craisins vs. Raisins

A couple of highlights from the table:

  • For the same serving size, Craisins have fewer calories, lower carbohydrates, and slightly more fiber than raisins.  But that’s just part of the picture. If you read the ingredient list, you will see that raisins have no added sugar, while Craisins have sugar added. You may then ask why Craisins have a lower carbohydrate content. The reason is that tart cranberries naturally have much less sugar to begin with.  So even after adding sugar to sweeten them up, they still have less TOTAL sugar overall. 
  • Raisins have a high amount of potassium, while Craisins have very little. Fresh fruits are generally good sources of potassium, but in the case of Craisins, the processing appears to have removed a significant portion of the potassium.

Both raisins and dried cranberries have been shown to have high ORAC, a measure of antioxidant activity. This is not surprising, since fruits, whether fresh or dried, have phytonutrients that exhibit antioxidant activity. However, some of these phytonutrients as well as vitamins or minerals may have been destroyed or lost during processing into dried fruit.  That’s why it’s important to choose dried fruits that are naturally dried, not processed.

Our Pick: Raisins

In this faceoff, raisins win because they offer a high amount of potassium and have no sugar added. Practically speaking, both raisins and dried cranberries can be part of a diet consisting of minimally processed foods. Because of their high sugar content, they can be a satisfying alternative for your sweet tooth and a more nutrient-savvy choice than candy. Being dried, they are also more shelf-stable and are therefore an appealing snack choice for the office or school. However, fresh fruits should still be your first option because they contain all of the fruit’s nutrients. Some nutrients, like water-soluble vitamins, may be lost or destroyed through the drying process. 

For those concerned about preservatives, we confirmed with the California Raisin Marketing Board ?that regular raisins do not contain the preservative sulfur dioxide, while golden raisins have it added. Read the ingredient list to be sure. 

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Books We Love: 200 Easy Homemade Cheese Recipes

( We’re big advocates of being able to control what’s in your food. One way to do that is to make a product from scratch that you’d usually buy pre-made, allowing you to know exactly what it contains and make modifications to suit your tastes or dietary needs.

You’ve probably never thought of cheese as something you could make yourself, but in 200 Easy Homemade Cheese Recipes, author Debra Amrein-Boyes breaks the process down with recipes even a complete novice can follow. Debra, who spent several years in Switzerland mastering the art of cheese making, is one of Canada’s top cheese makers, and practices her craft at The Farm House Natural Cheeses in Aggasiz, British Columbia.

Books We Love: 200 Easy Homemade Cheese RecipesThere really are 200 cheese recipes in this book, and unless you’re truly serious about the art of making cheese, you’re unlikely to try some of the more complex recipes that involve specialty tools and extensive aging. But with just a few ingredients and tools you likely already have in your kitchen, you can easily tackle many of the recipes, including mozzarella, ricotta, and butter, plus less-familiar cheeses like paneer (an Indian cheese), queso blanco (Latin American), and mizithra (Greek).

We love that by making your own cheese you can reduce the amount of salt if you’re trying to reduce your sodium intake, or use vegetarian rennet for firm cheeses that usually include rennet made from the lining of a calf’s stomach, if that’s something you prefer. (We tried both of these options with good results.) But the best part is the surprisingly delicious product you’ll have to nibble on when your cheese making is done. Homemade cheese offers incredible flavor, even in a simple mozzarella. It’s miles better than the factory-made cheese you’ll find in the store.

Author: Debra Amrein-Boyes

Website: The Farm House Natural Cheeses

Check this book out on Amazon

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Health Benefits of Garlic

( Many of our favorite dishes would not taste quite the same without garlic. A member of the Allium family, which also includes leek and onion, garlic is being studied for its many health benefits.

The Many Health Benefits of Garlic

Cardiovascular Health

Garlic’s protection of our heart health is multi-pronged. Sulfurous compounds from garlic can be used in the production of hydrogen sulfide gas within the body, which appears to expand blood vessels and keep them relaxed, thereby helping manage blood pressure. In addition, garlic has been shown to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. To top it off, garlic’s collection of powerful phytonutrients (many of which are responsible for that addictive pungency) have anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects on the blood vessels and blood cells. A particular compound called ajoene exhibits anti-clotting properties.

Anti-Cancer Effects and Antioxidant Contribution

Population-based studies have found an inverse relationship between garlic intake and rates of cancer. The sulfurous compounds in garlic have been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells in culture, as well as induce apoptosis (cell death) and prevent blood vessel formation within cancer cells.

Although not present in large amounts, garlic also contains several nutrients known to have an anti-oxidative role within the body: Vitamin C, manganese, and selenium.

Improved Bioavailability of Iron and Zinc

Researchers in India looked at the effect of adding raw or cooked garlic and onion to the cereal grains and pulses considered staples in the local cuisine, and found that both the raw and cooked forms of garlic and onion improve the bioavailability of iron and zinc. (The study was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2010).

Antimicrobial Properties and Immune Function Effects

While still in its early stages, research is underway on garlic’s potential as an antibiotic in cases of infections not treatable by existing prescription antibiotics, as well as in the management of the H.pylori bacteria, which is linked to stomach ulcers.

?How Cooking Alters Garlic Health Effects

While raw garlic has potent healthful properties, it is also the strongest in taste, so some find the pungency of its raw form too sharp to be enjoyable. Fortunately, garlic cooked using a quick-cooking method such as a simple sautee still retains a significant amount of bioactivity. When it comes to preparation method, crushing or chopping garlic activates the enzymes that lead to many of its healthful benefits, while boiling or microwaving whole garlic cloves will deactivate many of these enzymes. 

Some studies have also shown that garlic is more effective in its whole-food form rather than as an extract (powdered or pill form), which is all the more reason to cook with garlic rather than simply take supplements.

The Bottom Line

When something as tasty as garlic actually has many health benefits, it is not a hard sell. Use garlic in your salads, soups, mains, and sides. Garlic breath can actually be good for you!

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You Can Cook: Hulled Barley

( When you hear barley, many of you may think beer, but in its whole grain form (called hulled or dehulled), barley is a nutty, hearty choice to add to your favorite soup, salad, or pilaf. As a cereal crop, barley has been cultivated for thousands of years. The Romans referred to gladiators as “hordearii,” which meant eaters of barley.  

You can purchase different forms of barley. With only the inedible outer hull removed, the hulled version is the whole grain form. It’s sometimes difficult to find hulled barley.  The closet form to hulled barley is pot barley.  Pot barley is sometimes called barley groats at the stores (confusing, isn’t it-) Don’t be confused with pearled barley, which have had more of their nutritious germ and bran sections polished off and no longer constitute a whole grain. 

Not surprisingly, hulled barley takes the longest to cook. Nowadays, you may also find barley flakes or barley grits, which cook faster, but read the label to make sure they are made from hulled barley instead of pearled barley. 

You Can Cook: Hulled Barley

You Can Cook: Hulled Barley

You Can Cook: Hulled Barley

Starting Amount: 1/2 cup raw

You Can Cook: Hulled Barley

Pre-Soaking Requirement: No.

Pre-Rinsing Requirement: Yes. Rinse under running water, then drain well.

?Cooking Liquid: 1.5 cups liquid

Cooking Time: ?First, bring liquid to boil. Once boiling, add the rinsed barley and return to boil. Then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 45 to 60 minutes. At this point, have a taste; the kernels should be chewy yet tender. If the center of the kernel is still starchy or hard, you may need to let the grain simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes. You may have some excess cooking liquid even after the grain is done to your liking; simply pour off and use the cooked grain in your favorite recipe.

Resulting Yield: 2 cups

You Can Cook: Hulled Barley

Nutritional Information (per 1/2 cup cooked, hulled barley)

  • Calories: 82 kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 17 g 
  • Protein: 2.9 g
  • Fat: 0.5 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Glycemic Index (GI): Low (for the hulled form)
  • Gluten-free: No

How To Add More Hulled Barley To Your Diet

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A Diet with High Fiber Foods

( Fiber plays an important role in our health. Well-known benefits of dietary fiber include the prevention of constipation, hemorrhoids, and diverticulosis, as well as weight management. In addition, soluble fiber can help decrease blood cholesterol levels. With the recommended daily fiber intake at 38 grams for adult males (19-50 years) and 25 grams for women, it is really handy to get to know some high fiber foods to make sure you get enough.

Understand the Fiber Claims

For a food item to be labeled as “high fiber,” it has to contain more than 5 grams of fiber per serving. “A good source of fiber” must contain 2.5-4.9 grams of fiber per serving, while a claim of “more” or “added fiber” means it contains at least 2.5 grams more fiber per serving than the reference food.

High Fiber Foods for a High Fiber Diet

Grain Products:

Whole grain products are rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber. Levels of fiber differ dramatically across brands and products, so make sure you always read the label and look for at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. Here are some good ideas to start off your search:

A Diet with High Fiber Foods


Fruits are excellent sources of many vitamins and antioxidants, but not all fruits are high in fiber, as some of them are mostly water. Choose these ones if you would like a fiber boost:

  • dried fruits such as apricots, dates, prunes and raisins
  • berries such as blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries
  • oranges, apple with skin, avocado, kiwi, mango and pear


Like fruits, vegetables are amazing sources of many nutrients but not necessarily high in fiber. The following are known for their high fiber contents:

  • dark leafy greens such as spinach and swiss chard
  • broccoli and cauliflower
  • eggplant
  • squash
  • celery
  • green peas
  • tomatoes
  • dried peas and beans such as kidney beans, lima beans, black-eyed beans, chick peas and lentils

Nuts and Seeds:

Nuts and seeds come up just about everywhere in nutrition halls of fame, and why would fiber be an exception- Adding nuts and seeds, such as almonds, whole flaxseeds, and soy nuts to your diet is a delicious way to up your fiber intake.

The Bottom Line

Although it is important to add more fiber to your diet, make sure you don’t go overboard all at once! Add fiber slowly and gradually to avoid unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating, gas,and cramps.

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How to Manage Morning Sickness, Nausea, and Vomiting during Pregnancy

( Many women experience some nausea or vomiting during pregnancy. If you have been personally affected, you know the term “morning sickness” is really a misnomer, since the feeling of queasiness (or the urgent need for a barf bag) can happen at just about any time of day. Are there foods we can eat to keep morning sickness at bay-

Manage Morning Sickness Through Diet 

The tricky thing about morning sickness is that no one has pinpointed its exact cause. The general consensus is that it is related to the hormonal changes your body experiences throughout the various stages of pregnancy.

Eating Strategies to Avoid Morning Sickness

  • Don’t go for long periods without eating: When you wake up in the morning, eat a few crackers before starting the rest of your day. Then, make sure you have something to eat every 2 to 3 hours.
  • Spread out your fluid intake throughout the day: This avoids having to chug down a large amount at mealtime, which may contribute to feeling nauseated. Sip small amounts of fluids regularly – milk or non-dairy milk, 100% fruit juice, or water – to prevent dehydration.
  • Watch the timing of your vitamins: Iron supplements or the amount of iron in prenatal vitamins may be high enough to induce nausea in some women. If you suspect this may be the case for you, try taking the vitamins with food, or before bedtime.
  • Try ginger and lemon: Ginger is an alternative remedy that has been shown to help with upset stomach. Some also find the citrusy scent of lemon to be soothing.
  • Try Vitamin B6: Some trials have looked at the effect of Vitamin B6 but have not found conclusive evidence that it works. Vitamin B6 is sometimes prescribed along with another medication to help manage nausea and vomiting in pregnancy.
  • Eat well in advance: Interestingly, there may be some association between a healthy pre-pregnancy diet and reduced likelihood of hyperemesis gravidarum (severe nausea and vomiting serious enough to cause dehydration that may require hospitalization). A 2011 article in the British Journal of Nutrition outlined a study of Norwegian pregnant women that found those who consumed more seafood, allium vegetables (e.g., garlic, onion, leeks, shallots, chives), and water in the 12 months before pregnancy were less likely to develop severe nausea and vomiting than those who consumed less.

Food Ideas for Snacks

  • Bland and dry: Crackers, popcorn (pair with a few cubes of cheese or a cheese stick for added protein and calcium)
  • Tart: Lemon slices for tea, a citrusy vinaigrette for salad, or capers sprinkled on salad
  • Crunchy/hearty: Nuts and seeds (bonus: healthy unsaturated fats and calorie-dense)
  • Crunchy/zesty/salty: Pickles, potato chips (use sparingly to whet appetite for a meal)
  • Cold/fruity: Cold pieces of cut-up apple or watermelon, popsicles made with 100% fruit juice
  • Cold/crisp: Raw veggie sticks – carrot, celery, cucumber, jicama, bell pepper, snap peas, snow peas, radish

Food Ideas for Meals

  • Cold noodle or pasta salad with a simple olive oil/balsamic vinegar (or olive oil/lemon juice) dressing. Add chopped nuts, crisp veggie slices, and, if it fits your palate, hard-boiled egg.
  • Brown rice salad flecked with cut-up avocado, grated carrots, bean sprouts, and chicken.
  • A sandwich made with a zesty filling of plain canned tuna, chopped capers, and a squeeze of lemon juice topped with cucumber.
  • Plain vegetable soup made with pre-packaged broth with added frozen veggies, cut-up chicken, and some quick-to-cook whole grains such as amaranth, quinoa, or millet added in.

The Bottom Line

Managing morning sickness comes down to finding foods and taste combinations that agree with your changed palate so you can keep food and fluids down and stay nourished. If your case of nausea or vomiting is so severe that nothing stays down, be sure to seek medical intervention. Check out our Nutrition Guide for a Healthy Pregnancy.

Tell Us: What works for you when it comes to managing morning sickness-

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Fava Beans – Food of the Month

( Our May pick is a legume with a long-standing history of cultivation in many cultures around the world. Also known as broad beans, you can find fava beans in many cuisines, from those in the Middle East and Africa all the way to Europe, Latin America, and Asia.

Nutrition Tidbits for Fava Beans

?1/2 cup of boiled fava beans contains:

  • Calories: 94?kcal
  • Fat: 0.3 g
  • Carbohydrates: 16.7 g
  • Protein: 6.5 g
  • Fiber: 4.6 g
  • Glycemic Index: Low

Legumes as a group have many well-known health benefits, but is there anything unique about fava beans’ nutritional content- For starters, they contain a substance called levodopa, which is natriuretic (causes your body to excrete excess sodium). Levodopa?is also the precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine, found in low levels in those with Parkinson’s disease. Fava beans are also high in fiber, potassium, and folate, and are a good source of iron, zinc, phosphorus, and magnesium.

Fresh fava beans are at their peak in the spring, but only for a few weeks. The fresh beans also require some preparation before eating: first remove the beans from their pods, then blanch to remove the protective white “skin” covering each bean. Another way to prep fresh fava beans is to simply roast them straight in their pods. Shelled, dried beans and canned versions are also available in markets.?

Note:??Fava beans can induce a serious condition called hemolytic anemia in those with favism, an inherited genetic abnormality in the activity of a red blood cell enzyme. The disorder can be detected through a blood test.

How to Add More Fava Beans to Your Diet

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